California Explorer group photo

California Explorer

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Tuition $5,095





Jun 19 - Jul 9 Jul 12 - Aug 1

Backpack, Hike, Sea Kayak, Surf, Whitewater Raft

Arrival Location

San Francisco, CA

Departure Location

San Francisco, CA

Trip Overview

Backpack the lofty peaks of the Sierra Nevadas, raft thrilling class III whitewater on the American River, trek along a wilderness coastline, paddle rolling waves in an inflatable kayak, surf the California Coast, paddle Monterey Bay in a sea kayak, and hike among the towering Redwoods in a paradise few people ever experience. This California Adventure explores the Lost Coast, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Yosemite National Park, and Monterey Bay. Wilderness Adventures is a permittee of the King Range National Conservation Area, Sierra National Forest, and Yosemite National Park.

California Explorer backpacking
California Explorer backpacking
California Explorer backpacking
California Explorer hiking
California Explorer hiking
California Explorer kayaking
California Explorer kayaking
California Explorer surfing
California Explorer whitewater rafting


Our programs offer a wide variety of activity options. Explore the activities specific to this program below.

Backpacking on the California Explorer trip


Soaring into the fantastic San Francisco Bay Area, you’ll know your adventure has begun when you spot the famous Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. You’ll meet your trip leaders and while gathering your bags, you’ll also meet your new trip mates. Everyone will be just as excited as you are with a passion for the outdoors and adventure. Once you’re all together, you’ll travel just a short distance to your first campsite.

Following your compass (or the GPS, more likely) north, you’ll travel over the Golden Gate Bridge and hop on the famous, scenic, coastal Highway 1. Along the way, you’ll have the perfect opportunity to learn about what makes this picturesque coastal region so unique. From the tiny little fishing towns, to the history of the Miwok Indians, to the dairy industry of the area, you’ll come to find that this region moves at a different pace than the rest of the state does. Once you and your group reach camp, you’ll stop, hike around a little bit, have a picnic lunch, and maybe start a pick-up game of frisbee, all the while getting to know the people you are going to befriend over the coming weeks. The next day, you’ll explore the Golden Gate Recreation Area.

You will quickly find that “The Lost Coast” of California is a rather appropriate name, as it seems to be a place that time has nearly forgotten. The King Range, an imposing wall of mountains towering 4,000 feet above the black sand beaches, has helped keep this unusual environment private and lost from view. Over the next several days, you’ll spend your time backpacking along the shoreline past harbor seals and tide pools overflowing with starfish and crabs. You may even spot a surfer or two who has hiked to the surf in order to truly earn his or her waves for the day. You will learn all of the necessary backcountry living skills, including how to pack a backpack, Leave No Trace Principles, and using a map and compass. At night you’ll enjoy your backcountry dinner and sleep under the Pacific Coast stars, listening to the gentle waves.

The next day, you’ll plunge through the whitewater rapids of the American River! Your group will meet up with professional rafting guides who will instruct you on proper paddling techniques, swift-water safety, and also tell you some of the intriguing Gold Rush-era history that surrounds this river. The south fork of the American River never disappoints!

For the next several days, you’ll trek through the Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park. Here you’ll get to learn and practice fundamental backcountry travel skills as you hike past granite domes, sprawling meadows, and twisting alpine streams. Although Yosemite is a frequently visited park, you and your group will reward yourselves with solitude by taking the path less traveled. Once you leave the trailhead behind, you’ll see virtually no one – the high alpine lakes, incredible vistas, and star scattered skies will be left just for you!

Following your time in Yosemite, you and your group will be treated to showers and laundry, before making your way back to the Pacific Coast. You’ll take advantage of the azure waters off the coast of Monterey Bay. Monterey Canyon, one of the largest underwater canyons in the world, lies at the center of the bay. This beautiful environment is home to an abundance of marine mammals, including sea otters, harbor seals, and bottlenose dolphins. It also lies on the migratory path of several species of whale. You will hit the water by sea kayak, where you’ll learn firsthand about the ecosystem of marine life and have the chance to spot some marine wildlife sightings yourself!

Next up you’re going to change the pace a little bit by hitting the waves at Half Moon Bay! With the guidance of professional instructors, you’ll hang-ten under the California sun. After your days of surfing are over, you’ll head back to San Francisco and gather around the table for the traditional, celebratory WA end-of-summer banquet. The WA banquet is an opportunity to enjoy each other’s company one last time before your morning departure – it’s truly a great closing event for our unforgettable California adventure.

The final day is one of goodbyes. You’ll exchange phone numbers and farewells before boarding your flight home. In light of all that you’ve experienced together, Walt Whitman’s famous words should now ring true: “Now I see the secret of making the best persons. It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.”

I thought this was a great bonding trip and I had so much fun on the trails and backcountry even though it was hard sometimes. Together we could accomplish anything!

Claire, 2019 California Explorer Student

Trip Price Includes

  • Accommodations
  • Activities
  • Meals
  • Group gear

Not Included

  • Personal gear and clothing
  • Airfare to and form the trip start and end
Travelers all jumping in the air

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Tuition $5,095

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